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Why “Influencer” has become a dirty word

The word “Influencer” gets thrown around a lot these days- for better or worse. Only a few years ago, the thought of being paid for posting on social media would’ve been something of a fantasy. But today we know only too well of the successes of some who have managed to turn a once humble blog into a thriving, money-and-fame generating machine. And while some have done so with skill, determination and a ton of hard work, some have abused the system, taking advantage of a businesses desire for exposure and in doing so, the word “influencer” has become somewhat of a dirty word.

There is no doubt that Influencer marketing is extremely effective and the power of word-of-mouth and recommendation can never be oversold. In 2016, TapInfluence partnered with Nielsen Catalina Solutions on a 2016 study that revealed that influencer marketing generates 11 times the return of investment (ROI) of traditional digital marketing. No business can afford to turn down an 11-times greater ROI on a marketing spend.

It is every seller’s goal to get their product in front of tens of thousands- hopefully millions of eyes online and when those eyes all belong to a similar demographic, the chances of converting those views into sales rises exponentially. It makes sense then that if you can pay someone with a large social following to promote your product to their willing audience then the expectation of a return is very high. This idea is nothing new but with the reach of the internet, you can understand why businesses around the world place ever more value on Influencer Marketing and reserve healthy budgets with which to invest.

Here is where the problem begins: with businesses so eager to invest in Influencer Marketing and this modern trend still relatively new, not everyone has worked out how best to go about arranging such transactions or exchanges and there is a danger of people taking advantage of this. With any business transaction, protection should be put in place for both parties in the form of contracts or written agreements and clear guidelines and expectations put in place.

We have heard so many horror stories of deals gone bad where one party has not delivered on what what promised. That is to be expected because we as humans suck sometimes. However, there seems to be a growing issue with Influencers expecting more from brands in exchange for less. Some businesses are reporting bad experiences with Influencer marketing where they have dealt with people who were rude or arrogant or made absurd requests of the associate.

I heard one story recently of an Influencer that was contacted by a restaurant and asked to come in for to enjoy a meal with themselves and a friend. The meal would be complimentary in exchange for a post on Instagram. The influencer agreed but turned up with ten of their friends who all expected a free meal too. The group became overly loud and intoxicated, ruining the experience of the other customers in the restaurant. On top of that, they didn’t even leave a tip for their server. Very bad form.

I heard another story of an influencer who was asked to come in for a complimentary meal in exchange for a post on Instagram. She requested that fresh white lines be supplied before she arrived as well as her favourite brand of vodka because that was all she drank. She ordered off-menu and supplied less-than-average photos of food that wasn’t even on the menu!

So where do we draw the line? We at HSC also see the value in Influencer Marketing. We encourage our clients to participate and we have shown time and time again that exchanging a product or experience for a post on Instagram is a very small investment that will yield a dramatic return. But we also make sure that Influencers we work with are the right kind of people; business people who understand and respect the transaction and in doing so, protect the reputation of the word “Influencer”.

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